By Benjamin Njoku

It will be a colourful showcase  of culture, tradition and heritage of the people of Owerri-West Local Government Area, in Imo State, as plans are on top gear to host the 2nd edition of the repackaged “Igbatu Oba Ji (Unlocking of Yam barn)” cultural festival.

*Traditional rulers deliberate on the way forward

“Igbatu Oba Ji(Unlocking of Yam barn)” cultural festival is as old as the people even before their forefathers knew how to read and write. The festival was there to serve them for the purposes of celebrating the unlocking of the yam barn from the farm yields before the commencement of the farming season.

The festival, which has gone into extinction following the adverse effects of the civil war was revived last year after the President Generals of the 21 communities that make up the Owerri-West hosted the maiden edition at the Headquarters of the local government in  Umuguma.

Interestingly, following the successful outing of last year, the traditional rulers under the aegis of Owerri-West Council of Traditional Rulers are taking it upon themselves to headline this year’s edition also holding in Umuguma, later next month.

The festival planning committee, chaired by His Royal Highness, Eze Lucky Okoro of Eziobodo is working tirelessly to put the festival on the cultural map of the country.

Speaking to Vanguard Art, during one of their meetings at the palace of  HRH  G.I  Ejimogu, Eze of Umuanunu Autonomous community in Obinze last  week, Eze Okoro said the essence of the festival is to showcase the culture and tradition of the  people in terms of their agricultural activities to the world.

The royal father described Owerri-West as ‘an agrarian zone’, adding that “We have arable land, fertile land and  we are interested in commercializing our agricultural activities.”

According to him, activities lined up for the two-day events include talk show which will be aired in some local radio and television stations,  road  show to  showcase the people’s farm implement and other agricultural products to the world.

The festival will kick off on Friday, with the preparation of the yam barn that will be unveiled on the grand finale. It will also witness different cultural dances and displays to be facilitated by the 21 communities in the area in addition to featuring the Omenimo dance troupe.

Also, speaking in the same vein, HRH, Eze A.H Ekocha of Olaukwu, in Oforola said the festival will forestall love, unity and togetherness among the people. “We want to show our children what they have not seen before so that they can always continue it when we are no longer there.  It is very important to sustain our culture because we inherited it from our forefathers.  That is why we are eager to ensure that we have a successful outing this year. It was hosted in a low keg last year but this year, we are planning to make it big and once we put on fire, it can never be quenched by anybody again,” the royal father added.

For Eze G.I  Ejimogu,  Chairman, Council of Owerri-West Traditional Rulers and Chairman, Owerri Zone Traditional Rulers, the revive of the festival will help to encourage the people to go back to farming.

Other members of the festival planning committee include, HRH Eze Sir Lucky Ajoku of Ihiagwa kingdom, HRH Eze E,C Ekwelibe of Irete kingdom and HRH Eze R.N Osuji of Eziokele kingdom. Meanwhile, the  traditional rulers said they are ready to partner with corporate bodies and individuals to make this year’s festival a huge success.

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